Papahānaumokuākea in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands was added to the list of World Heritage sites by UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee, currently meeting in Brasilia. This is the first US site to be listed in 15 years.
“Papahānaumokuākea was added to the World Heritage List as a mixed natural and cultural site. One of the largest marine protected areas in the world,” said Tim Badman, Head of IUCN’s World Heritage Programme. “The site exemplifies both the critical importance of our seas for world heritage and the inextricable link between culture and nature.”
Papahānaumokuākea comprises a major portion of the world’s longest and oldest volcanic chain, and is a unique testimony of hotspot volcanism. Many endangered or threatened species live in Papahānaumokuākea, and some depend solely on its habitats for survival. They include the critically endangered Hawaiian Monk Seal, four endemic bird species, and six species of endangered plants such as the Fan Palm.
“We are proud to add this exceptional marine protected area to the list of the world’s greatest natural and cultural sites,” said Dr. Lubchenco, US Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Administrator.
Two of the islands in Papahānaumokuākea feature the highest concentration of ritual sites in Hawai'i and bear remarkable testimony to the shared historical origins of Polynesian societies. In predominent Native Hawaiian tradition, Papahānaumokuākea is believed to lie within the place where life originates and to which it returns.
The philosophy of the site is to "Bring the place to the people" through a variety of media and web-based interactive experiences in order to help limit the human footprint on the remote region's near pristine ecosystems and cultural heritage for future generations.
All access to and within the area are by permit only. Strict carrying capacity guidelines limit visitor access, which is restricted to Midway Atoll only.